2011. Vol. 2, No. 1, 1-11
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/psych.2011.21001
How does Socio-Political Context Shape Daily Living: The
Case of Jews and Arabs in Israel
Adital Ben-Ari, Yoav Lavee
University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.
Received October 12th, 2010; revised November 4th, 2010; accepted No v ember 12th, 2010.
The present paper addresses a timely topic by exploring the contribution of cultural, ethnic, and contextual
attributes to close relationships within particular armed-political conflict. It is based on a series of studies to
examine the daily lives of Jews and Arabs with different cultural orientations within the context of armed
political conflict. In Study 1, we surveyed 697 Jewish and 300 Arab respondents to examine the extent to which
daily occurrences are similarly experienced as stressful by different cultural and socio-political groups and how
those occurrences relate to life and marital satisfaction. In Study 2, we employed a daily diary methodology with
a sample of 300 couples to explore how daily fluctuations in psychological well-being and marital relationships
relate to daily hassles. Security-related stress was perceived as the main source of stress for both Jews and Arabs,
but on a daily basis it had little or no effect on well-being and marital relationships. The findings attest to the
significance of the socio-political context within which people of different ethnic and cultural identity
experience their daily lives. In so doing, this article advances new directions for theory and resea rch.
Keywords: Cultural Orientation, Daily Hassles, Marital Relationships, Socio-Ethnic Affiliation, Well-Being
What does it mean to suggest that individuals and couples are
affected by their context? It can be said that the context in
which individuals and couples operate involves the actual and
potential influences that lie outside of the partners and their
interactions (Karney, Story, & Bradbury, 2005). Current re-
search has been slow to consider the context of individuals and
intimate relationships as a whole. Rather, most research on how
individuals and couples are affected by their context has fo-
cused on a single or a few elements of the context at a time. In
particular, despite the growing number of political conflicts and
wars throughout the world, not enough scholarly attention has
been paid to the patterns of distress experienced by individuals
and couples living in such a context and to its socio -psycho logical
consequences. The present study is aimed to fill this gap by
examining the daily lives of individuals and couples within the
context of armed political conflicts. In so doing, we intend to
advance new directions for theory and research for understand-
ing the impact of larger socio-political context and culture on
close relationships and psychological well-being.
The global geo-political tension and armed conflict in the
Middle East is most strongly reflected in the lives of Israeli
Jews and Arabs. An important aspect of Israeli life is its con-
tinuous state of conflict with the neighboring Palestinian people
and Arab countries. Wars, terrorist acts, and security threats are
at the core of Israel’s existential reality. This conflict has im-
pacted on the daily experiences of both Jews and Arabs in Is-
rael, disrupting the routine life of individuals and families alike.
In the past decade, more than 1000 people have been killed and
more than 7,000 injured in hostile activities, including stab-
bings, shootings, rocket shellings, and suicide and car bomb-
ings. Such violent events pose a threat to physical and mental
health, to social and personal identity, and to the sense of
membership in the community (Abdela, 2003). Yet, most Is-
raelis, Jews and Arabs alike, continue to live their lives nor-
mally and go about their daily business, juggling between work
and family responsibilities, participating in social and leisure
activities, and investing in their personal and family well-being
(Lavee & Ben-Ari, 2003, 2008).
The impact of daily stresses on individuals and couples
within the context of this armed political conflict was examined
by employing a two-stage research design involving two meth-
odologies. In the first stage, we conducted a survey to examine
the sources of daily stress among married Jews and Arabs and
the extent to which these sources of stress relate to life and
marital satisfaction. In the second stage, we employed a daily
diary approach to more closely examine how the daily experi-
ences of stress are related to fluctuations in mood and couple
relationships. Given that little research has looked at the unique
cultural, ethnic, and contextual issues involved in stress and
well-being; and given the lack of adequate theoretical frame-
works to guide such research, the current paper may pave the
way for the construction of a new body of knowledge.
Contextual Background
Two contextual components must be considered in studying
the daily lives of Israelis: the diverse cultural makeup of the
country and the security-political situation in the region. The
Israeli population of about 7.1 million is composed of two main
groups: Jews (75.7%) and Arabs (19.8%). The rest of the popu-
lation consists primarily of non-Jewish immigrants from the
former Soviet Union (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2008). Fol-
lowing massive waves of immigration from more than seventy
This study was supported in part by a grant from the Israel Science
Foundation (Grant number 808-01).
countries, Israel is characterized by a mix of countries of origin,
religions, traditions, and heritages. Traditional family patterns
are found alongside modern lifestyles, Western culture coexists
together with Middle-Eastern heritage, and religious values and
practices range from secular to highly orthodox (Lavee & Katz,
The small size of the country must also be taken into account
to understand that for Israelis the armed conflict is not some-
thing that happens “out there”, but right at home or nearby.
This fact has ramifications at both the personal and collective
levels. At the collective level, it makes the number of people
who have been killed or injured more meaningful; at the per-
sonal level, it is likely that everyone in Israel intimately knows
someone who has been killed or wounded in an act of war or
terror. Consequently, the emotional highs and lows of the av-
erage Israeli tend to be affected by the state of security in the
country. This effect is further intensified by the frequent recur-
rence of traumatic events, which have built up a cumulative
sense of threat and personal vulnerability (Milgram, 1993).
The Impact of Negative Daily Occurrences on
Individuals and Couples
Empirical evidence from a number of studies attests to the
consequences of daily occurrences on people’s psychological
well-being and family relationships (Cassidy, 2000; DeLongis,
Coyne, Dakof, Folkman, & Lazarus, 1982; DeLongis, Folkman,
& Lazarus, 1988; Hahn & Smith, 1999; van Eck, Nicolson, &
Berkhof, 1998). However, the significance of various daily
occurrences may differ in different cultural and socio-political
groups. Currently, the body of literature on daily stress has not
given adequate consideration to cultural variations, and re-
searchers of cultural variations have largely disregarded the
effect of commonly experienced daily stresses on adaptational
Cultural perspectives provide important insights into psy-
chological processes (Oyserman & Lee, 2008). Culture and
socio-political affiliation may play a role in how individuals
experience daily hassles, including the occurrence of events,
their appraisal, the coping strategies used, and the adaptational
outcomes (Slavin, Rainer, McCreary, & Gowda, 1991). Certain
kinds of events may be perceived as stressful in widely differ-
ent cultures, but they may also be shaped by living and social
conditions that are culture-specific or by variations in the sensi-
tivity to certain events (Laungani, 1995, 2001; Mesquita &
Frijda, 1992; Scherer, 1997). Bringing concepts of culture into
psychological theories and research will facilitate a better un-
derstanding of human diversity in context and is crucial to both
social science and policy in multicultural societies (Cooper &
Denner, 1998; Hughes, Seidman, & Williams, 1993; O’Donnell,
2006). Following this line of thought, the present study ex-
plores cultural variations in the everyday life experiences of
Israel’s two main socio-ethnic groups.
The most prominent framework within which cultural varia-
tions have been examined is based on Hofstede’s (1980) and
Triandis’ (1995) distinction between individualist and collec-
tivist cultures. In individualistic cultures, primarily associated
with Western, industrialized societies, there is a strong com-
monly shared belief in the independence of self from others.
Members of individualistic cultures tend to hold an independent
view of the self that emphasizes separateness, internal attributes,
and the uniqueness of individuals. As such, individualistic cul-
tures tend to view behavior as a function of these personal at-
tributes and emphasize values that promote individual goals. In
contrast, members of collectivist cultures tend to hold an inter-
dependent view of the self that emphasizes connectedness,
social context, and relationships (Triandis, 1995). The major
task for members of collectivist cultures is to fit in with and
adjust to the relationships of their in-group, while constraining
their own personal desires. Thus, collectivist cultures view
situational factors, such as norms, roles, and obligations, as the
major determinants of behavior and emphasize values that
promote the welfare of their in-group (Hofstede, 1980; Kita-
yama, Markus, & Lieberman, 1995; Smith & Bond, 1993; Tri-
andis, 1995). Today, most research on collectivist and indi-
vidualist cultures has been carried out by means of cross-na-
tional studies. The cross-national literature indeed demonstrates
an association between individualism-collectivism and psycho-
logical outcomes, in terms of both content and process (Oyser-
man & Lee, 2008).
An apparent limitation of cross-national research is that dif-
ferent “cultures” are lumped together, as if they represent a
uniform set of thoughts, beliefs, practices, and behaviors, and
as if they have a shared history and religion (Slavin et al., 1991;
Sundberg, 1981). While many scholars equate non-Western
societies with “collectivism,” not all collectivist cultures ex-
perience life events in a similar fashion (Laungani, 1995).
Another limitation of research on cultural variations in the
experience and perception of stress stems from the emphasis on
differences between societies, thus portraying different cultural
communities as holding mutually exclusive, stable, and uniform
views. The concept of culture is often confounded by related
concepts, such as ethnicity, race, nation, and country (Hughes
et al., 1993; Matsumoto, Takeuchi, Andayani, Kouznetsova, &
Krupp, 1998). There are two fundamental problems with opera-
tionalizing culture in terms of ethnic communities or countries.
First, it creates an ecological fallacy (Babbie, 1989) by making
assertions about one type of unit of analysis (i.e., culture) based
on the examination of another (i.e., country or socio-political
affiliation). Second, such a conception assumes the homogene-
ity of cultural orientations within communities. Indeed, it is
more than likely that cultural diversity exists within countries
just as it does between countries (Oyserman & Lee, 2008). It
may therefore be useful to study cultural orientation as a socio-
psychological construct, referring to individual-level manifesta-
tions of individualism-collectivism (Triandis, 2001). In this
regard, the term idiocentrism refers to individual-level indi-
vidualism, whereas allocentrism refers to individual-level col-
lectivism (Triandis, Leung, Villareal, & Clack, 1985). In the
same vein, Kitayama and colleagues (e.g., Kitayama, Duffy, &
Uchida, 2007; Markus & Kitayama, 2003; Uchida, Kitayama,
Mesquita, Reyes, & Morling, 2008) have developed the inde-
pendence—interdependence theory of cultural self suggesting
that cultures vary in the relative emphasis on independence as
opposed to interdependence in the definition of self.
In cross-national studies, Israel is most frequently character-
ized as a homogeneous society in terms of cultural orientation
(e.g., Scherer, 1997). However, this view overlooks cultural
differences within Israeli society. In fact, the Jewish majority in
Israel is considered more modern, similar in many ways to
“individualistic” Western societies, relative to the traditional,
“collectivist” Israeli Arab population (Florian, Mikulincer, &
Weller, 1993; Haj-Yahia, 1997). Yet, even such a characteriza-
tion of socio-ethnic groups in itself over-generalizes cultural
orientation, as suggested by the substantial number of idiocen-
tric Arabs and allocentric Jews (Lavee & Katz, 2003). Given
this cultural setting, the Israeli population provides a “natural
laboratory” for examining cultural variations in the experience
of daily hassles and for exploring how context shapes the daily
lives of individuals and couples.
We examined cultural variations in daily experiences by two
culturally-related dimensions: Socio-ethnic group affiliation
(i.e., Jews vs. Arabs) and individual cultural orientation (i.e.,
idiocentric vs. allocentric). These two dimensions are likely to
overlap to some extent, as the Jewish population tends to be
characterized more often as idiocentric and the Arab minority
as allocentric, however they do not coincide, because there are
Arab Israeli citizens found with idiocentric cultural orientation
and Jewish people with allocentric cultural orientation.
In Study 1, we examined the extent to which daily occur-
rences are similarly experienced and recognized as stressful by
different cultural and socio-ethnic groups. What are the differ-
ent sources of daily stresses and strains for both Jews and Arabs
with either idiocentric or allocentric cultural orientations? How
do psychological well-being and marital satisfaction relate to
these sources of stress? In Study 2, we further explored how
daily fluctuations in psychological well-being and marital rela-
tions are related to daily stressful occurrences among Jewish
and Arab couples with different cultural orientations.
We expect that, given the context of political violence in the
Middle East and the fact that terrorist attacks take place more
frequently within Jewish communities, security-related stress
will appear as the major source of stress for both Jews and Ar-
abs, but will be appraised more negatively among Jewish re-
spondents. In accordance with previous research (Lavee &
Ben-Ari, 2003; Lavee & Ben-Ari, 2008), we expect that daily
hassles will be negatively associated with psychological
well-being and with marital relationships, with security-related
stress having the strongest effect. We further expect that these
associations will be moderated both by ethnic affiliation and
cultural orientation, though we have no basis for predicting the
direction of the effect.
Study 1
Data collection for this study was carried out during the pe-
riod of January–March, 2001. During this period, life in Israel
was influenced by three major political events: the beginning of
the Palestinian uprising (intifada) in October 2000; an intensi-
fication of tension between Israeli Arabs and Jews, which re-
sulted in the death of 13 Arab youngsters; and the fall of the
government, followed by national elections (which eventually
led to a new gover n m en t ) .
Two samples of 697 Jewish and 300 Arab respondents were
drawn by means of a random telephone number dialing. The
number of Arab respondents was somewhat inflated relative to
their proportion of Israel’s population (19%) so as to enable
appropriate statistical analyses. Forty-four percent of the total
sample and of both Jewish and Arab sub-samples were men,
and the rest (56%) were women.
Preliminary analysis showed that after the elimination of re-
spondents who were not clearly identified as idiocentric or
allocentric, 396 of the Jewish respondents (59.8%) were identi-
fied as idiocentric and 266 (40.2%) were identified as allocen-
tric. Among the Arab respondents, 214 (71.3%) were identified
as allocentric and 86 (28.7%) were identified as idiocentric.
Demographic characteristics of the sample are shown in Table
1. As the data in the Table 1 indicate, the four groups had a
similar gender distribution and did not significantly differ in
their mean age. However, the allocentrics were more likely to
have been married for a longer period of time and to have more
children. On average, respondents with an idiocentric orienta-
tion had a higher educational level and a higher income level
than those with an allocentric orientation. In terms of religiosity
level, the majority of the idiocentrics defined themselves as
secular, whereas the allocentrics more often reported that they
were traditional or orthodox.
Procedure and Instruments
Data were collected by a telephone survey, with the use of a
computerized assisted telephone interviewing system. Trained
interviewers conducted the interviews in Hebrew and Arabic
with Jewish and Arab respondents, respectively.
Daily stresses and strains were measured by an adapted ver-
sion of the Daily Hassles and Uplifts Scale (DeLongis et al.,
1982). This instrument consists of a list of 18 items (e.g., “chil-
dren”, “parents”, “spouse”, “work”, “health”, and “time for
self”) that can constitute sources of strain, stress, and hassle.
Given the current geo-political situation in the Middle East, two
other items were also included: “social-political events” and
“security-related events.” Respondents were asked to indicate
whether or not each item had been a source of stress for them
during the past week. Items were clustered into four domains of
sources of stress: family (parents, children, spouse, in-laws, and
other family relatives); self (appearance, time for self, and
health); roles (work-related stress and household chores); and
security-political (security and political situation).
Cultural orientation (idiocentrism—allocentrism) was meas-
ured by an adapted version of the Relational, Individual, and
Collective Self-Aspect scale (Kashima & Hardie, 2000). Re-
spondents were asked to choose between two alternatives for
various items measuring values and activities in relation to
personal well-being (idiocentrism) versus group welfare (allo-
centrism). For example, “The most satisfying activity for me is:
(a) doing something for myself, or (b) doing something for my
group.” On the basis of the responses to these items, respon-
dents were categorized as having either an allocentric or an
idiocentric orientation.
To examine ethnic and cultural differences in the evaluation
of daily hassles, a two-factor (ethnic affiliation and cultural
orientation) multivariate analysis of variance was conducted
across the four hassle domains (family, self, roles, and secu-
rity-related stress). The results are presented in Table 2. The
data show overall effects of ethnicity and cultural orientation,
but no interaction effect. Closer inspection reveals that Jews are
significantly more distressed by the security-political situation
than are their Arab counterparts, F = 15.08, p < 0.01. Likewise ,
Jewish respondents are more disturbed than Arabs by family
matters, F = 21.78, p < 0.01. As far as cultural orientation, people
with an idiocentric orientation report more self-related hassles
than do those with an allocentric orientation. The data further
show an interaction effect in the evaluation of family hassles, F
= 3.89, p < 0.05, with allocentric Jews reporting more family
hassles than their idiocentric counterparts. However, no differ-
ence was found between Arab idiocentrics and allocentrics in
this regard. It is worthy of note that security-political concerns
appear as the main source of stress for all groups – Jews and
Arabs, idiocentric and allocentric alike.
Association of Hassle Domains with Psychological
Well-Being and Marital Satisfaction
Next, we examined the relations between the four hassle do-
mains and the participants’ personal well-being and marital
satisfaction among the four groups (idiocentric and allocentric,
Jews and Arabs). The findings are shown in Table 3. Overall,
all hassle domains are negatively associated with personal
well-being and marital satisfaction. Family-related hassles are
most strongly associated with marital satisfaction, whereas self-
related hassles are most strongly associated with personal
well-being. In all groups, personal well-being is strongly asso-
ciated with self-related concerns. In addition, personal well-
being is also strongly related to role-related hassles among
idiocentric Jews and to family-related hassles among idiocen-
tric Arabs.
As shown in Table 3, the pattern of associations is not as
clear in regard to marital satisfaction. With the exception of
idiocentric Arabs, marital satisfaction is negatively associated
with self-related hassles. It is also associated with role-related
stress among idiocentric Jews and allocentric Arabs, and with
family-related stress among idiocentric Arabs. Looking at it
from another angle, it appears that for Jews, personal well-
being and marital satisfaction are mostly correlated with self-
and role-related hassles, whereas for Arabs they are mostly
associated with family- and self-related hassles. Finally, al-
though security-political concerns are the major source of stress
for all groups, they are least likely to affect personal well-being
and marital satisfaction.
Guided by the question of how the context of daily living in
Table 1.
Study 1 sample characteristics.
Idiocentrics Allocentrics Idiocentrics Allocentrics Group Differe nces
n = 396 n = 266 n = 86 n = 214
Variable Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD) F
Age 39.32
2.13 df
Marital length 14.53
3.34* 3, 958
Number of c hildren 2.55
30.34** 3, 956
% %
% % 2 3, 831
Educational level
186.80** 3
Income level
Above average
Below average
189.98** 9
942.48** 6
Level of religiosity
126.62** 12
*p < 0.05. **p < 0.01.
Table 2.
Means, standard dev i a tions (in parentheses), and multivariate analysis of variance of daily hassles by ethnic affilia tion and cultural orientation.
Jews Arabs F
Variable Idiocentrics
n = 396
n = 266
n = 662
n = 86
n = 214
n = 300
Ethnic Orient E x O
Self 0.29
1.75 7.04** 0.33
Roles 0.20
0.68 1.90 0.09
Family 0.21
21.78** 0.94 3.59*
Security-political 0.81
15.08** 1.04 0.33
Model F (5,955): Ethnicity = 14.19**, Orientation = 2.92*, Ethnicity × Orientation = 1.15. *p < 0.05. **p < 0.01.
Table 3.
Correlations between daily s t r e s s d o ma i n s a n d marit a l satisfaction and general well-being.
Jews Arabs Total
Idiocentrics Allocentrics Idiocentrics Allocentrics
(n = 397) (n = 266) (n = 86) (n = 214) (n = 963)
Variable Mar-Sat GWB Mar-Sat GWB Mar-SatGWB Mar-Sat GWB Mar-SatGWB
Family –0.12* –0.08 –0.09 –0.10 –0.22* –0.39** –0.08 –0.18* –0.27**–0.14**
Self –0.16** –0.19** –0.30** –0.28**–0.10 –0.32** –0.17* –0.36** –0.19**–0.26**
Roles –0.17** –0.19** –0.04 –0.12 –0.13 –0.13 –0.20** –0.14 –0.13**–0.20**
Security-political –0.06 –0.03 –0.11 –0.13* –0.02 –0.08 –0.03 –0.08 –0.09**–0.18**
Note: Mar-Sat = marital satisfaction; GWB = general well-being. * p < 0.05. ** p < 0.01.
Israel affect the lives of Jews and Arabs, the findings indicate
that security-political concerns are the major source of stress
for all people living in Israel. At the same time, the fact that this
source of stress appeared to have quite limited association with
personal well-being and marital satisfaction further motivated
us to examine more closely how the various sources of stress
impact on people’s psychological well-being and marital rela-
tionships on a day-to-day basis. More specifically, we examine
the extent to which daily fluctuations in individuals’ moods and
sense of dyadic closeness are associated with family, self, roles,
and security-related stress among Jewish versus Arab couples
and among idiocentric versus allocentric individuals. We also
examine the associations of each partner’s experience of the
four sources of stress with self and the other partner’s mood
and sense of closeness. In this regard, we treat individual’s
mood as a daily indicator of personal well-being and dyadic
closeness as a daily indicator of the couple’s marital relationship.
Study 2
From the larger sample (Study 1), a random sub-sample of
300 respondents (200 Jewish and 100 Arab) were contacted and
invited to participate in subsequent stages of the project, which
included a session for completing self-report questionnaires,
followed by a week-long structured daily diary. Participants
were included in this stage only if both spouses were willing to
take part in the research. Participants were paid $ 50 in vouch-
ers for their participation in the study. The present study is
based on data from 272 couples (both husbands and wives) who
provided complete data for all variables. This sample included
184 Jewish couples (67.6%), of whom 71.7% were identified as
idiocentric and 28.3% as allocentric, and 88 Arab couples
(32.4%), of whom 38.6% were identified as idiocentric and
61.4% as allocentric.
The sample characteristics are summarized in Table 4. As the
data show, Jewish women were somewhat older than their Arab
counterparts, and Jewish men and women had on average two
more years of education than Arab men and women. Additionally,
the number of children in Arab families was somewhat higher
than in Jewish families. No differences were found between
groups in the couples’ length of marriage or in the men’s age.
Trained Jewish and Arab interviewers conducted interviews
in Hebrew and Arabic. Interviewers visited the couples in their
homes and administered questionnaires to each partner sepa-
rately. The questionnaires included cultural orientation, person-
ality and relationship measures, and background information.
Following completion of the questionnaires, interviewers pro-
vided instructions for filling out the daily diaries. Participants
were instructed to start keeping the daily diaries the following
day and to continue for seven consecutive days. They were
further instructed to make their diary entries at the end of the
day. Telephone calls were randomly made to participants dur-
ing the week to check that the diaries were being completed as
instructed and to answer any questions. Interviewers visited the
participants’ homes again at the end of the week to collect the
Cultural orientation. Cultural orientation was measured by
the adapted version of the Relational, Individual, and Collective
Self-Aspect scale (Kashima & Hardie, 2000), as described in
Study 1. For respondents who participated in Study 1, this
measure enabled an assessment of test-retest reliability. In addi-
tion, cultural orientation was measured for their spouses, who
were not included in Study 1. The test-retest correlation for
spouses who participated in Study 1 was r = 0.53 (p < 0.01),
and the between-spouses correlation of cultural orientation was
r = 0.74 (p < 0.01). On the basis of data from both spouses, we
classified couples into idiocentric and allocentric categories.
The daily diary. The daily diary contained four sections: dai-
ly hassles and uplifts, mood, dyadic closeness, and couple ac-
tivities. Daily hassles were measured by an adapted version of
the Daily Hassles and Uplifts Scale (DeLongis, Coyne, Dakof,
Folkman, & Lazarus, 1982). The instrument consisted of a list
of 12 items (e.g., children, parents, spouse, work, health, secu-
rity) that can constitute sources of stress. Respondents were
asked to rate the extent to which each item had been a source of
stress for them on a four-point Likert-type scale, ranging from 0
= not at all to 3 = very much. Items were clustered into four
domains: family, self, roles, and security-political by summing
the scores of items in each domain for each day.
Mood. Mood was measured by 10 items from the Positive
and Negative Affective Schedule (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen,
1988). The original instrument consists of two 10-item scales
(i.e., positive affect and negative affect) that were shown to be
internally consistent and stable, with evidence of both conver-
gent and discriminant validity. For the purposes of this research,
the scale included 10 adjectives that identified five positive
(e.g., relaxed, happy, excited) and five negative feelings (e.g.,
frustrated, depressed, irritable). Respondents were asked to
report the extent to which they had experienced each feeling in
the recent hours preceding reporting. Each item was rated on a
four-point Likert-type scale, ranging from 1 = not at all to 4 =
very much. Mood was computed as a mean score of the items
after reversing the coding of negative items. The reliability ()
of the scale ranged between 0.76 and 0.79 for men and between
0.78 and 0.81 for women across the seven diary days.
Daily Closeness. The closeness scale was developed using
information obtained from an earlier stage of the project. Qua-
litative in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 couples (20
interviewees), who were asked to describe their everyday ex-
periences of closeness and distance. Analysis of the data
showed that participants alluded to both physical and emotional
closeness, and described closeness both as a wish for and as a
sense of closeness (Author citation 3; Author citation 4). Con-
sequently, the closeness scale in the current study was com-
posed of four items in which respondents reported the extent to
which they wished for physical and emotional closeness to their
partners (e.g., “To what extent have you felt today a need for
physical closeness to your spouse?”), and the extent to which
physical and emotional closeness actually occurred on that day
(e.g., “To what extent was there an emotional closeness be-
tween the two of you?”). Each item was measured on a
five-point Likert-type scale, ranging from 1 = not at all to 5 =
very much. A factor analysis indicated that all items loaded on a
single factor. For each day, a closeness score was calculated as
a mean of the four item scores. The mean internal consistency
reliability () of the scale across the seven diary days was .90
for both men and women.
Table 4.
Study 2 sample characteristics.
Jews Arabs
Idiocentrics Allocentrics Idiocentrics Allocentrics Group Differences
n = 132 n = 52 n = 34 n = 54
Variable Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD) F (3,268)
Husbands 41.30
Wives 38.84ab
Education (years)
Husbands 14.59a
Wives 14.72a
Marital length 16.27
Number of c hildren 2.24c
ote: Means within each row whose subscripts differ are different at p < 0.05. *p < 0.05. **p < 0.01
First, we conducted a two-way multivariate analysis of vari-
ance to examine the effects of ethnic affiliation and cultural
orientation on the experience of daily hassles in the four do-
mains among husbands and wives. The findings are presented
in Table 5. The results indicate a main effect of ethnic affilia-
tion, F (8, 261) = 7.45, p < 0.01, but no effect of cultural orien-
tation. A closer examination of the findings indicates that the
Arab men and women reported higher levels of daily stress than
their Jewish count erparts in family, self, and rol e-related stress.
In addition, the Arab men reported a higher level of secu-
rity-related stress as compared to the Jewish men. Differences
between idiocentrics and allocentrics were found only in the
experience of security-related stress among the men, with idio-
centric men reporting a higher level of security-related stress
than allocentric men. Finally, an interaction effect was found in
the experience of role-related stress among women, with idio-
centric Arab women reporting a higher level of stress than their
allocentric counterparts, while allocentric Jewish women re-
ported a higher level of stress than idiocentric Jewish women.
Next, we examined the pattern of correlations between hassle
domains and individual’s mood and dyadic closeness among
husbands and wives in the four groups. The findings are de-
picted in Table 6. Overall, there are negative correlations be-
tween daily hassles and men’s mood across all hassle domains.
For women, daily mood is negatively associated with all but
security-related stress. A closer examination reveals that this
pattern of correlations exists particularly among Jewish partici-
pants, both men and women. In contrast, none of the daily has-
sle domains are correlated with Arab men’s mood, and only
family-related stress is associated with mood among both idio-
centric and allocentric Arab women.
Dyadic closeness appears to have a much lower impact on
daily stress than individual’s mood. Only among women, sense
of closeness was significantly related to family and self-related
stress. Closeness is related primarily to self-related stress among
Jewish women, whereas it is more strongly associated with
family-related hassles among Arab women, though not to a
statistically significant level.
In the final stage of analysis, we examined the extent to
which individual’s mood and sense of dyadic closeness are
associated with one’s own and one’s partner’s experiences of
daily stress. The findings are provided in Table 7. For each
outcome variable (i.e., individual’s mood, dyadic closeness),
two models are presented. Model 1 (a base model) illustrates
the associations between the actor’s outcome variables and the
actor’s and partner’s stress domains (level 1). Model 2 demon-
strates how these associations are moderated by ethnic affilia-
tion and cultural o rie ntation (leve l 2).
Daily Stress Effect on Mood
The findings in Model 1 indicate that daily mood is nega-
tively associated with the actor’s stress in all four domains,
whereas it is only associated with the partner’s experience of
security-related stress. Model 2 shows no group differences in
the level of the individual’s mood (i.e., insignificant main ef-
fects of ethnic affiliation and cultural orientation groups). It
further shows that the associations between the actor’s mood
and the actor’s and partner’s stress domains are partly moder-
ated by ethnic affiliation, but not by cultural orientation. More
specifically, it appears that the effects of both the actor’s and
the partner’s security-related stress on one’s mood are different
for Jews and Arabs.
In order to further explore these differences, we examined
the pattern of associations between the actor’s and the partner’s
security-related stress and mood among Jews and Arabs. The
findings show statistically significant negative correlations
among the Jews (r = 0.16 and r = –0.12, p < 0.001 for actor
and partner, respectively), whereas the correlations are statisti-
cally insignificant among the Arabs (r = 0.02 and r = 0.01).
Group differences were also found with respect to the effect of
the actor’s role-related stress on mood. A closer examination of
this effect shows a stronger negative correlation among the
Jews as compared to the Arabs (r = –0.27 and r = –0.11, re-
spectively), reaching a statistically significant difference (z =
–4.80, p < 0.001). Finally, among the Jews but not among the
Arabs, the actor’s mood is negatively associated with the part-
ner’s self-related stress.
Daily Stress Effect on Closeness
The findings in Model 1 indicate that dyadic closeness is ne-
gatively associated with both the actor’s and the partner’s stress
in all four domains, with the exception of the actor’s experience
of security-related stress. Model 2 shows no group differences
in the level of dyadic closeness (i.e., insignificant main effects
of ethnic affiliation and cultural orientation groups). It further
shows that neither ethnic affiliation nor cultural orientation
have a moderating effect on these associations. In other words,
similar patterns of association exist for both Jews and Arabs
with idiocentric and allocentric orientations.
The present paper addresses a timely topic by exploring the
contribution of cultural, ethnic, and contextual attributes to
close relationships within particular armed-political conflict. It
is based on a series of studies conducted within the socio-po-
litical Israeli context, in an attempt to answer three questions:
What are the different sources of daily stresses and strains for
both Jews and Arabs with either idiocentric or allocentric cul-
tural orientations? How do psychological well-being and mari-
tal satisfaction relate to these sources of stress? How are daily
fluctuations in psychological well-being and marital relations
related to daily stressful occurrences among Jewish and Arab
couples with different cultural orientations? By integrating the
answers to these three questions, we will highlight the way in
which culture, ethnic affiliation, and the socio-political context
shapes the daily lives of individuals and couples. In so doing,
the current article may identify new directions for theory and
Major Sources of Daily Stresses and Strains for
People in an Armed Political Conflict
As expected, security-related stress was found to be the ma-
jor source of stress for both Jews and Arabs with either idio-
centric or allocentric cultural orientations (Study 1). However,
when considered on a daily basis (Study 2), this did not appear
to be the case. This gap may be attributed to the differential
ways in which Israelis appraise and deal with security concerns.
In terms of a global evaluation, when asked about their every-
day living, most people refer to the security situation as a pri-
mary concern that shapes their lives. However, on a daily basis,
unless an act of terrorism or political violence has recently oc-
curred, people tend to go about their ordinary routines without
giving special consideration to security concerns.
The fact that security-related stress is the source of stress
most strongly experienced by Israelis, and that it is experienced
more strongly among Jews than Arabs, may be explained by the
existential threat posed by the armed conflict and political vio-
lence in this country. For people living under such circum-
stances, other sources of stress may appear to be of secondary
Differences were found between various ethnic and cultural
groups in the extent to which they experienced and appraised
other sources of daily stress. For example, people with an idio-
centric cultural orientation were more concerned with selfrelated
stress than their allocentric counterparts, and differences in the
appraisal of family-related stress were found between allocen-
tric and idiocentric Jews, but not Arabs. The finding that self-
related stress (i.e., appearance, time for self) is more strongly
experienced by people with an idiocentric orientation is not
surprising because it is one of the major characteristics of indi-
vidualistic cultures. In the same vein, the fact that family-related
stress (i.e., relations among family members) did not differenti-
ate between allocentric and idiocentric Arabs reflects the sig-
nificance of family relationships in their collectivist culture.
Table 5.
Means, standard deviations (in parentheses), and mult ivariate analysis of variance of daily has sles by ethnic affiliation and cultural orientation.
Jews Arabs F (1, 268)
Variable Idiocentrics
(n = 132) Allocentrics
(n = 52) Total Idiocentrics
(n = 34) Allocentrics
(n = 54) Total E C E x C
Family 2.67 (2.62) 2.27 (2.27) 2.56 (2.53) 3.18 (2.60) 3.15 (2.69) 3.16 (2.64) 3.87* 0.38 0.29
Self 3.30 (3.27) 3.37 (2.81) 3.32 (3.14) 4.32 (3.43) 5.09 (3.48) 4.80 (3.46) 9.60** 0.89 0.62
Roles 4.32 (2.74) 3.81 (3.33) 4.18 (2.92) 5.79 (2.58) 5.00 (3.25) 5.31 (3.02) 10.89** 2.65 0.12
Security 3.23 (2.34) 2.81 (2.50) 3.11 (2.39) 4.91 (2.40) 3.91 (2.16) 4.30 (2.30) 18.90** 4.94* 0.83
Family 3.14 (2.60) 3.71 (2.90) 3.30 (2.70) 4.30 (2.83) 4.02 (2.60) 4.12 (2.70) 3.94* 0.16 1.32
Self 4.50 (2.91) 4.20 (2.92) 4.41 (2.91) 5.65 (3.50) 6.50 (3.54) 6.16 (3.52) 16.26** 0.38 1.80
Roles 5.01 (2.66) 5.35 (2.90) 5.10 (2.73) 7.53 (3.01) 5.83 (2.28) 6.50 (2.70) 16.82** 3.42 7.69**
Security 3.64 (2.50) 3.90 (2.33) 3.71 (2.44) 3.94 (2.53) 3.15 (2.10) 3.45 (2.30) 0.44 0.70 2.54
Note: E = Ethnicity, C = Cultural ori entation. Model F (8,261): Ethnicity = 7.45**, Cultural orientation = 1.51, Ethnicity × Culture = 2.00*. *p < 0.05. **p < 0.01.
Table 6.
Correlations between mean da i l y s t r e ss d o m a i n s and mean mood and closeness scores across 7 days.
Jews Arabs Total
Idiocentrics Allocentrics Idiocentrics Allocentrics
(n = 132) (n = 52) (n = 34) (n = 54)
Variable Closeness Mood Closeness Mood ClosenessMood Closeness Mood ClosenessMood
Family –0.04 –0.34** –0.06 –0.50**0.02 –0.12 –0.09 –0.12 –0.05 –0.30**
Self –0.18* –0.31** –0.11 –0.33* –0.04 –0.12 0.17 –0.10 –0.10 –0.25**
Roles –0.14 –0.49** –0.11 –0.45**0.29 –0.13 0.27 –0.17 –0.01 –0.38**
Security 0.07 –0.16 –0.19 –0.33* 0.17 0.11 0.13 0.07 0.04 –0.13*
Family –0.13 –0.25** –0.17 –0.44**–0.21 –0.36* –0.10 –0.26 –0.15* –0.30**
Self –0.21* –0.26** –0.32* –0.36**–0.09 –0.12 0.06 –0.11 –0.16** –0.22**
Roles –0.09 –0.28** –0.16 –0.27 –0.05 –0.02 –0.02 –0.09 –0.08 –0.19**
Security 0.03 –0.16 –0.05 –0.17 0.16 0.29 –0.08 0.07 0.03 –0.06
* p < 0.05. **p < 0.01.
Table 7.
Summary table of multilevel analyses for the effects of actor (A) and partne r (P) stress domains on mood and dyadic closeness.
Mood Closeness
Variable Base model Culture + Group Base model Culture + Group
Intercept 2.87 (0.02)** 2.85 (0.02)** 3.10 (0.04)** 3.10 (0.04)**
Group 0.05 (0.04) 0.09 (0.10)
Culture –0.04 (0.03) –0.15 (0.08)
A-family –0.11 (0.01)** –0.11 (0.01)** –0.08 (0.03)** –0.08 (0.03)**
By Group 0.01 (0.03) –0.07 (0.06)
By Culture –0.01 (0.03) –0.00 (0.06)
A-self –0.09 (0.01)** –0.09 (0.01)** –0.07 (0.02)** –0.07 (0.02)**
By Group 0.02 (0.02) –0.00 (0.05)
By Culture –0.04 (0.03) –0.05 (0.05)
A-roles –0.10 (0.01)** –0.10 (0.01)** –0.10 (0.02)** –0.10 (0.02)**
By Group 0.07 (0.02)** 0.05 (0.05)
By Culture 0.04 (0.02) –0.02 (0.04)
A-secure –0.05 (0.02)** –0.05 (0.01)** 0.01 (0.03) 0.01 (0.03)
By Group 0.11 (0.03)** 0.05 (0.06)
By Culture –0.03 (0.03) 0.01 (0.05)
P-family –0.02 (0.01) –0.02 (0.01) –0.05 (0.02)* –0.05 (0.02)*
By Group –0.01 (0.03) –0.05 (0.06)
By Culture –0.02 (0.03) 0.08 (0.06)
P-self 0.00 (0.01) –0.00 (0.01) –0.10 (0.02)** –0.10 (0.02)**
By Group 0.05 (0.02)* 0.02 (0.05)
By Culture 0.04 (0.02) –0.03 (0.04)
P-roles –0.01 (0.01) –0.01 (0.01) –0.04 (0.02)* –0.05 (0.02)*
By Group 0.01 (0.02) 0.04 (0.04)
By Culture 0.03 (0.02) 0.01 (0.04)
P-secure –0.04 (0.01)** –0.04 (0.01)** –0.06 (0.03)* –0.06 (0.03)*
By Group 0.06 (0.03)* 0.03 (0.06)
By Culture –0.03 (0.03) 0.06 (0.06)
* p < 0.05. **p < 0.01.
Daily Stresses, Psychological Well-Being , and Marital
As expected, the findings support the notion that stress has a
deleterious effect on people’s psychological well-being and
marital relationships, as all stress domains were negatively
associated with these aspects of participants’ lives. Also not
surprising were the findings that family-related stresses were
primarily correlated with marital satisfaction and that self-
elated stresses were mainly correlated with psychological well-
being. These findings hold true for both Jews and Arabs with
either idiocentric or allocentric orientations. These observations
reflect the idiocentric nature of focusing on the self and indi-
vidual well-being and the allocentric nature of focusing on the
group and sense of belonging. At the same time, differences
were found between Jews and Arabs (e.g., in the effects of fam-
ily, self, and role-related stress on psychological well-being and
marital satisfaction) and between participants with different
cultural orientations within each socio-ethnic group.
The most intriguing finding, contrary to our expectation, re-
lates to the association of security-related stress to psychologi-
cal well-being and marital satisfaction. Despite the fact that
security-related stress was reported to be the major source of
stress, it was the least related to psychological well-being and
marital satisfaction for all groups. Several explanations can
account for this finding. First, it may be that this finding re-
flects a relatively limited variance in the appraisal of secu-
rity-related stress, a phenomenon shared by many Israelis. Sec-
ond, given the existential threat imposed by security-related
events, it might be that people buffer such threats from affect-
ing their daily routine by protecting their psychological well-
being and marital relationships. Alternatively, it may be as-
sumed that people do not allow such threats to affect their well-
being and relationships in order to maintain functional daily
routines. Finally, the findings suggest that given the ongoing
nature of the socio-political situation and threats, it is the ordi-
nary daily hassles (i.e., family strains, role responsibilities) that
are responsible for daily fluctuations in personal well-being and
marital relationships.
How do Ethnic Affiliation and Cultural Orientation
Shape Daily Experiences?
Assuming that ethnicity and culture constitute the context of
people’s lives, we expected that both ethnic affiliation and cul-
tural orientation would shape the extent to which psychological
and marital well-being are related to the experience of daily
hassles. The finding that only group affiliation appeared to
shape such relations warrants further consideration. In general,
differences between Jewish and Arab participants were found in
the appraisal of daily stresses and their effect on psychological
well-being and marital relationships, but few or no differences
were attributed to their divergent cultural orientations. This
finding may attest to the significance of context, as Arab fami-
lies – whether idiocentric or allocentric – tend to reside within
homogeneous communities and villages. Thus, for example,
educated, economically advantaged, and liberal-minded Arab
men and women may percei ve their daily experiences in a more
similar way to members of their community than to their Jew-
ish counterparts with a similar cultural orientation. In addition,
we argue that the findings reflect a more global socio-political
context of life in Israel, which overrides differences in cultural
orientation insofar as it reflects a more prominent aspect of
personal identity .
Three main findings capture the essence of the current paper.
First, security-related stress is perceived as the main source of
stress for members of both ethnically-affiliated groups and with
different cultural orientations; it appears to color all aspects of
daily experiences. Second, security-related stress has little or no
effect on sense of personal well-being and marital relationships
on a daily basis. Third, socio-political affiliation overrides indi-
vidual differences due to cultural orientation. The findings
show that ethnic affiliation partly shapes the associations be-
tween daily hassles and personal and marital well-being, but
that cultural orientation does not. In particular, belonging to the
Jewish majo rity or to t he Arab minority mirrors the socio- political
context of this region, as it touches upon self and national iden-
tities. Within this context, socio-ethnic affiliation takes promi-
nence over individual cultural orientation.
The current article may pave the way to a road less travelled:
the understanding and delineation of factors that shape the ef-
fects of daily negative experiences among people of different
ethnic and cultural identity living in the context of political
hostilities. The case of Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel may
be conceived as a natural laboratory from which initial gener-
alizations can be made that may be applicable to similar situa-
tions. Needless to say, ethnic, cultural and religious conflicts
exist in other countries around the globe, in which security or
ethnic tensions may prevail. Further research may be carried
out in other socio-political contexts to validate and refine our
findings. Notes
Researchers affiliated with an Israeli university and studying
an Arab population may face some socio-political, cultural, and
language-related issues. We made an effort to minimize these
concerns by including an Arab research coordinator who helped
develop, translate, and pre-test the questionnaires, and by hav-
ing all interviews with Arab couples conducted by trained Arab
interviewers. We also debriefed interviewers, both Jewish and
Arab, to check whether respondents raised language or cultural
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